I've been holidaying profusely, on and off for the last couple of months in order to
catch as much as possible of the summer which this year is even shorter than
the usual(sic!) german summers.
I'm in one of the most remote regions that Germany still has to offer and I
hope it remains so. The Landscape is gorgeous and less tamed than the rest of
Germany. Here some aspects sometimes remind me of Australia, because farming
is not so neat and doesn't use up every square inch of nature. In fact a lot
of areas aren't farmed or wooded at all which gives them that slight savannah
type of appearance. There is a perfect mix of forest, meadows, fields, moors
and most of all... the lakes. This countryside is riddled with the most
beautiful and often very clear freshwater lakes. It is the countryside that
my subconscious has always longed to be in.
But to my horror this tranquil semi-wilderness is populated with the most
hideous folk that this state counts among its citizens. We are around a 100km
north of Berlin, if you care to look on the map, in a village called Warthe
near the towns of Templin and Lychen (which bears a foreboding resemblance to
the word "lynchen" [to lynch] and "Leichen"[corpses]). Not far from here near
Fürstenberg is the former concentration camp and now memorial site of
Ravensbrück. During the last days of the war Warthe itself was defended by
the SS "to the last man". Not one building remained intact and the overall
feeling I have here is as if being faced by a beautiful body animated by a
This is born out by the appearance and attitude of the natives in these
parts. Sullen, unapproachable, susceptible to a hostile form of deafness,
with an almost paramilitary likeness in attire and body language. A shaven
fat-head wearing a sweater with Ku Klux Klan spelled on it in large Gothic type,
I suppose in order to give a somewhat subliminal twist to the message which is
hit home though by a pit bull he is holding on a leash. No outrage here, where the far
right enters into a federal election campaign with slogans like: "Give Work
to Germans first"; or: "Criminal foreigners out" etc. - slogans which translate
under the counter to "Germany to the Germans", "Foreigners Out",etc. - and it is very
easy to imagine the blind public eye when
a whole section of the community was led to
extermination. All the while themselves claiming the status of a victim. It
is in the victim-mode that atrocities can best be committed since it gives
the perpetrators the illusion of committing something resembling revenge.
At a "snack-bar"(I wouldn't dare walk in to find out what else the place
might be) opposite the railway station arriving visitors are screened by a
pack of dangerous looking skinheads equally waiting for the tiniest excuse
to commit an atrocity of the kind which have been committed all over eastern
Germany with increasing violence and frequency ever since the wall came down.
Africans getting stabbed and thrown out of trams. Classes on school camp
getting attacked and injured. Italian migrant builders getting clubbed to
death. English migrant workers getting their car pushed off the road by a car
occupied by neo-nazis etc.
It's the children and grand-children of the people you saw crying in that
documentary who commit these atrocities. They are blunt, callous and most of
all hostile to everything perceived as foreign which doesn't imply they are
frequently confronted with foreigners or migrants (a term not accepted into
daily german usage). Far from it. In these parts there are no more than 2%
migrants/foreigners of the total population. 16year old skinheads will claim
to hate Jews even though they never saw a single jewish person in their
lives. School kids in Templin appear on german television repeatedly stating
they believe in the ideals of Adolf Hitler, picking up in a nostalgic fashion
on german folk traditions as was done by the nazis during the third reich...
All this is arduously explained, excused, justified (take your pick) with
unemployment, post communist collapse confusion (CCC, I wouldn't be surprised
if medicare payed for a treatment as opposed to RSI), lack of traineeships,
and what have you. While there is some indirect truth to those arguments, one
has to ask the parents of these children what environment they created that
would turn their children into racists simply out of boredom i.e.
unempolyment. Of course it has much more to do with an uninterrupted
tradition of authoritarian structures that East Germans were exposed to until
almost ten years ago.
There is a strong wish in germany to be rid of the reverberations of the
past, but the german problem is not one simply of generation, as most would
like to believe who hope for a "return to normal" at the latest when the last
eyewitness of the nazi era has died; it is much more a problem of language
which perpetuates attitudes much more insidiously than mere opinions do. And
within language it is the sound more than the words which convey feeling,
compassion, courtesy etc. Germans manage to say "please" and mean "this is an
order" far too often. As a german saying goes: "Der Ton macht die Musik" ,
the tone makes the music. But the tone of the german language is still hard,
bureaucratic, pedantic, pedagogic and "rechthaberisch" (always right).
Especially in the prussian heartlands. And the most successful german music
export of the last decade has been "techno" which, with its rigid beat, aims to
aid its fans to reach trance with something more akin to marching music than
A particular species unique to the german landscape is also the type I call
"Schlüsselgewaltsperson" which in English means something like "person with
key authority" no matter if this authority is real or imagined, the key
metaphorical or real. Often enough those "persons with key authority" will
first make sure you realise that it is only by their grace, of which they
display little, that you may proceed on your way of whatever problem you are
trying to solve by way of them activating their "key". In this fashion
problems are more often created rather than solved. It's a form of
entertainment for the one, a matter of identity for the other because: how
could "civilisation" survive if problems were solved easily perhaps even with
the mutual joy of making them disappear. Thus the Germans are a problem unto
themselves with their attitude of "it can't be done"... unless there are
orders from above, and then only grudgingly.
Even with otherwise liberally minded people I get into stupid arguments about
immigration, refugees, drugs etc. and I'm happy to be able to point to some
of the more creative aspects of Australian politics despite the recent Hanson
debacle. Sure Germany has taken a large share of refugees from the total in
Europe etc. But there remains an inconsolability with the idea of Germany
being a migrant country. And there is the spectre of the blunt slogan,
"GUEST(worker)S come, and GUEST(worker)S leave" hovering around the migrant,
or rather "foreigners", debate. But most Germans prefer to bury their head in
the quicksand of a dubious past when migrants were still called "guest
workers" and Turks weren't prone to fundamentalism. Yet, inadequate
immigration laws and a "blood and soil" approach to citizenship further
enhance the appeal of the muslim zealots and it is a historic cliché of
barbarism that it is the backward view that makes equals, - in this case
of the religious fanatics and the racist supremacists.
Attempts at integration are clumsy and half hearted and the german-born
"Turks" are quickly becoming a generation lost to a pluralist society.
It is these young "Turks" that Germany has failed to win over to and make
at home in a Constitutional Democracy with its roots (sic!) in the "Age
It is a volatile mix of current international developments and Germanys
catastrophic past that is going to put Germany to the ultimate test of what
place it will deserve in the league of free, democratic, enlightened and,
yes, why not revive this admittedly idealistic term, "progressive" nations.
If Germany rejects the United States or British attempt at "multiculture"
then it should come up with its own model of a civil multi-racial society.
So far its failure to clearly accept its place among the nations of immigration
with all the problems that entails has led to a weak position in the face of
international realities. To reject such an acceptance however would lead
to the event that finally wipes Germany of the map.
Germany is ill prepared for the changes it needs to undergo and thus Bertolt
Brechts metaphor of the great Karthago that fought three wars to its doom
still bears an analogy of considerable prophetic relevance. Its refusal to go
with the flow is very likely to break its neck. But since fanatics of all
persuasions would rather see their object of worship and themselves perish
than to see it changed beyond their recognition we still have ample reason to
fear the worst.
Those who do not want to sit on a Nietzschean summit of disdain and for whom
heroism means to fight for The Universal Human Rights in a Multiracial
Society of Tolerance should regard the german dilemma with increasing
concern. Many Germans like to deflect from their "multicultural"
responsibilities by pointing to the colonial atrocities of their allies,
which, they say, are only paying for past crimes when absorbing a great
quantity of migrants into their commonwealths. But the extermination of an
entire "ethnic" and/or religious community from amongst ones own ranks, of
course, equally faces a people with a debt: A direct debt to those murdered
and their surviving relatives, and a debt to its own humanity. It is the
latter which many Germans are beginning to reject. It's all too difficult,
too foreign, too hard. Well, much more so was the road to Auschwitz.
In the end one has to become very philosophical to bear it all and I read de
Sades "Justine" to give me back the feeling of "What a beautiful world we (the
peoples of Europe) still live in"